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At the southern tip of Ambergris, the 6.5-sq-mile Hol Chan Marine Reserve is probably Belize's most oft-visited diving and snorkeling site. It offers spectacular coral formations, plus a rich abundance and diversity of marine life – not to mention its proximity to the cays. Hol Chan is Mayan for 'Little Channel,' which refers to a natural break in the reef known as Hol Chan Cut. The channel walls are covered with colorful corals, which support an amazing variety of fish life, including moray eels and black groupers.
Although the reef is the primary attraction of Hol Chan, the marine reserve also includes sea-grass beds and mangroves. The sea grass provides a habitat for nurse sharks and southern stingrays, which lend their name to Shark Ray Alley. Snorkelers have the chance to get up close to both species, due mainly to the fact that the animals are used to getting fed by tour boats.
All dive operators and nautical tours offer trips to Hol Chan. For information and displays on marine life, visit the Hol Chan Visitors Center.